A Common Type of Seizure in Kids That Usually Is Harmless
July 06, 2021
A young child having a seizure is enough to panic any parent. There are many types of seizures, with varying causes and symptoms. However, one common type of seizure seen in young children is usually harmless.
It’s called febrile seizure, and it typically occurs when a child is sick with a fever above 101 degrees. Febrile seizures tend to affect children between 6 months and 5 years old. The seizures usually last a few minutes, though some last longer.
Two Types of Febrile Seizures
“Simple” febrile seizures last less than 15 minutes and occur once in a 24-hour period. “Complex” febrile seizures last longer and happen more frequently and may involve only one side of the body.
The seizures cause a child to shake uncontrollably. Some children lose consciousness. As many as one in 20 children have febrile seizures before age 5, and experience no lasting health effects or learning problems.
A child having a seizure should be placed on the floor to prevent injury, on his or her side to prevent choking. Don’t restrain the child. Do not put anything in the child’s mouth. Keep track of how long the seizure lasts and watch for signs of breathing problems.
Febrile Seizures and Treatment
Jun Park, MD, Clinical Director of Pediatric Epilepsy and Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's, says febrile seizures generally don’t require treatment.
“By the time they come to the ER, they are fine. Their brain waves are normal,” Dr. Park says.
“We don’t want to put them on anti-epileptic medication two times a day for seizures that may occur once or twice a year, triggered by a fever from a cold or flu. By the time the child is 4 or 5, the seizures usually go away.”
Seizures Always Need Medical Attention
But children experiencing any type of seizure should get immediate medical attention, Dr. Park says. If it is a suspected febrile seizure, doctors will want to rule out other possibilities or underlying health conditions.
A seizure that happens without fever is reason to see a neurologist, he says. “In that case, we may be dealing with something more than a febrile seizure.”
For instance, seizures could be a sign of meningitis, brain damage, stroke, brain tumor or a nervous system disorder. Some prolonged seizures develop into epilepsy.
The cause of febrile seizures isn’t known, Dr. Park says. Researchers are looking at possible genetic, biological and environmental factors, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). About 40 percent of children who have a febrile seizure will have a recurrence.
The pediatric neurology and epilepsy team at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s is recognized as a center of excellence. Among the best programs in the nation, we have the expertise to accurately evaluate, diagnose and treat the full range of neurological disorders children – using the latest, most scientifically advanced diagnostic equipment, therapies, techniques and medications available.